A/V Room









Crash - Preview & US reaction

Preview by: Jack Foley

VETERAN writer, Paul Haggis, has become something of a hot property since his Oscar success for penning Clint Eastwood's Oscar-winning Million Dollar Baby.

Yet the writer has now turned director for Crash, a critically-acclaimed urban thriller that's based on personal experience.

Fifteen years ago, Haggis and his wife had their car stolen at gunpoint - but the writer is able to see the funny side of it now.

As well as the director's vehicle, the thieves also got away with a video rental of a Norwegian film Haggis has rented out for the night.

The film in question was about fishermen and prompted Haggis to ponder what his assailants must have thought about his choice of movie (particularly as he had a 'hot date' with him at the time).

The ordeal and subsequent questions provide much of the inspiration for Crash, a tragi-comedy focusing on the lives of several characters and their racial attitudes in California.

The characters in question include a Brentwood housewife and her DA husband, a Persian store owner, two police detectives who are also lovers, a black television director and his wife, a Mexican locksmith, two car-jackers, a rookie cop and a middle-aged Korean couple…

Playing them is a hugely impressive cast of ensemble performers, including Oscar nominee, Don Cheadle, as well as Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon, Ryan Phillippe, Brendan Fraser, Ludacris and Jason Isaacs.

The film that results is described as 'funny, powerful, and always unpredictable', and one which 'boldly explores the grey area between black and white, victim and aggressor… and finds no easy solutions'.


US reaction

Crash drew mostly positive reviews from critics in America when it opened in the States on May 6, 2005.

Many found parallels with the style of Magnolia, while several heralded the arrival of Haggis as not only a talented writer, but director as well.

Leading the positives is the New Yorker, which wrote that 'Crash is hyper-articulate and often breathtakingly intelligent and always brazenly alive - I think it’s easily the strongest American film since Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River, though it is not for the fainthearted'.

Variety, meanwhile, noted that 'Haggis knows how to grab the viewer's attention, via intense confrontations as well as by planting dramatic seeds that bear fruit in, more often than not, grimly unexpected ways'.

While Entertainment Weekly observed that 'the stunning, must-see drama Crash is proof that words have not lost the ability to shock in our anesthetized society'.

Strong, too, was Rolling Stone which concluded that 'despite its preachy moments, the film is a knockout. In a multiplex starved for ambition, why kick a film with an excess of it?'

Less impressed, however, was Village Voice, which lamented that 'full of well-observed supporting riffs, Crash might've accumulated more frisson had it cast a clearer eye on how social tension actually plays'.

And Box Office Magazine, which found it to be 'a promising but ultimately disappointing drama about California angst'.

But the positives far outweighed the negatives with stating that 'Haggis turns the screws on a nation’s anxieties and helps light the way of personal responsibility through conversation and, if need be, a little divine intervention.'

While Ebert and Roeper conclude this overview by writing: "I think this is the kind of film that starts arguments and stimulates passionate discussion about topics that still make most of us cringe."

Read our review

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